"Not Fade Away", the last episode of Angel, which makes it the last televised episode of the whole Buffyverse, is a huge disappointment. An epic battle of good and evil is really what was needed. But standing in for 'evil' is some silly organisation they made up at the last minute that rounded up various malevolent Season 5 characters and stuck them together. Sad. But it did manage one of my very favourite snatches of dialogue in twelve seasons.
Anne Steele is a bit of an odd character, starting on Buffy as a sultist and starting a highly irregular path to LA, through three aliases and to operating a homeless shelter. And philosophically giving the whole Buffyverse its moral axis. If you manage to catch it. Here it is. Charles is about to head into the 'big battle', but is given a day to do whatever he wants. He chooses to look up an old friend in the 'neighbourhood' and help out.
Gunn: Annie. How you doing?
Anne: Pretty good, I guess. We got a bunch of furniture donated. Gotta move this stuff to the new shelter.
Gunn: Still fighting the good fight, huh?
Anne: That's the drill. How are things uptown?
Gunn: More fight, less good. Seen Rondell or the guys? I hit some of the old spots. Didn't see anyone.
Anne: They should be around. They said they'd help me haul this stuff. You know how it is, though. Things come up.
Gunn: Yeah. You got much vamp trouble these days?
Anne: Never goes away for good. The boys help out, though. We're pretty safe. It gives me time to concentrate on the little things. Crack, runaways, abuse victims, psychotics. The old gang.
Gunn: Yeah, I remember.
Anne: It's not so bad. We've had some really decent donations, and it's helping. We actually have a part-time paid psychiatric staff.
Gunn: What if I told you it doesn't help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it's all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?
Anne: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?
Gunn: I do.
Gunn's had a bad year. The M.O. of Angel, to show the line between good and evil as more blurred than on Buffy the Vampire Slayer really comes to the fore this season. Gunn's faith in good vs. evil has been shaken, and he's about to attempt redemption by going into a battle he's certain to die in: a battle againt evil that at best will only shake the foundations of evil. His 'what if' is abrupt, slightly anxious. He's looking for some wisdom. And of course, he gets it.
Anne's nonchalant answer is the heart of the series, a great manifesto for life, really. It says that doing good is its own reward: that even knowing no lasting good will come from it does nothing to diminish the virtue of doing good. Whether or not life has a grander 'purpose', if all we are are the actions we perform, we might as well perform them anyway. Behave as if life has meaning, even if it doesn't - and that by itself will give life meaning.
It's a great message, stuck ever so subtly into the mouth of one of the Buffyverse's most interesting minor characters.